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Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 19

This winter episode of Poetry Worth Hearing includes an extended reading by Jack Cooper from published and unpublished work, other wintry poems by Eva Wal, Inge Milfull, Stephen Paul Wren, Helen Overell, Dorothy Yamamoto, Elizabeth Barton,Carl Tomlinson and Fiona Perry. The episode concludes with an interview and a reading from Kate Noakes, whose new book, Goldhawk Road, was published last year.


Jack Cooper


Here are the publication details for Jack's poems:


Empress Matilda flees Oxford - Previously published by Popshot Magazine

The Sword of Winfarthing - Unpublished

Vore - Previously published in Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing (Doomsday Press)

Vestfold Hills, Antarctica - Unpublished

Moon - Previously published by the Young Poets Network at the Poetry Society

Below you will find the texts of Jack's unpublished poems.


The Sword of Winfarthing

“In Winfarthing, a littel village in Norfolke, there was a certyne Swerd... counted so precious a relique... it help’d also unto the shortening of a married mans life, if that the wyfe which was weary of her husband, would set a candle before that Swerd every Sunday for the space of a whole yeare, no Sunday except’d.” – Thomas Becon, Reliques of Rome (1563)

The wheat barely stirs in the wind,

so weighed down by its own fertility.

Even as you gather stems to sheaf, kneeling on sunkissed soil, you feel the chill of stone against your skin. You see only an immense altar, a field of flames

on four foot wicks.

And later, when he turns your clothing to chaff,

you think only of the Sword – soaked in moonlight, glistening like frozen milk –

buried to the hilt in his stomach.

Of his low moan and your silence.


———

You were taught to speak with your body

and not your mouth, to weave around others like twine.

You were raised to be a sheep with many shepherds:

the Father, Son, and Holy See.

The candle weeps, its wax as pure as the snow that has already started to cover your tracks.

———

He has been good to you. Your bruises go with the spring thaw.

You think of the animals you trapped for tallow to make a year of candles: the dogs tempted with scraps, the sleeping dormice plucked from hedgerows like plump berries,

drowsy bees smoked out of their hives.

Doubt is self-seeding. It soon grows past its plot.

Will you pray to the Sword of Winfarthing?


Vestfold Hills, Antarctica

The sky, the sea, the land:

stark, silent, and alive.

Lichen hugs hardscrabble soil like mist or wet paint with craquelure; algae nestling in fungal filaments like burrs caught in fur.

In a place like this, life is a gift they choose to give each other: fungi shielding algae from the frost as they work at the slow distillation of sunlight, sugars collecting inside them like dew, food that sees them both through six months without dawn,

a season where the winter collapses in on itself, dense and dark and inescapable.



Jack Cooper is a science communicator based in London with six years experience in biomedical research. He writes on a breadth of topics, but has a soft spot for science, science fiction, and local history.

He received the Society of Author's Eric Gregory Award in 2022 for his debut pamphlet, 'Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing', which is available to order from Doomsday Press.

He is keen to use poetry and prose for science communication, having written an educational resource for the Poetry Society on metaphor and cell biology, having delivered 12 hours of space-themed poetry workshops for the Science Museum, and having written new poems for the Czech Centre London to celebrate the legacy of Czech poet and immunologist Miroslav Holub.

Jack's poetry has been featured by BBC Radio 4, the V&A museum, and Magma, amongst others.

Dr Helen Sharman, Britain's first astronaut, had this to say about Jack's poetry: "Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing is as joyful in its imagery as it is thought-provoking in its abstractions. Cooper takes us on a voyage of life and love, leaving us contemplating our own journeys of self-discovery."


Eva Wal


winter enchantment


twigs stretching, reaching out

to the edge of the woods - as I enter


holly whistles


red jumps from

spiky stacks of green


a sudden

crisp

crack

of a frozen

drop


tumbles into silence


whispers whipping through beams of sunlight

diving into opaque foliage


beeches are my elephants, my family, a herd

walking as slowly as ever - as if they would not

move with the moss, the mushrooms, the branches and

leaves - lush and slush - the root webs and its folk,

all that turns and turns - as day and night

change their holding hands


my hands forage - not touching anything but the air

inbetween everything


my eyes follow the chase of light and shadow

and a squirrel up to the crowns

as my feet trod below finding their way

somnambulant


Out there, in the open field stand


oak and pine

pine and oak


rubbing shoulders

a colourful encounter


beaks in the barks - the rhythm rises

a choir of chattering patting wings


and blue in all its hues

flees with horses and horizons



Eva Wal is an visual artist and a poet who lives in Bonn and on the countryside nearby.

She published her first poetry pamphlet Marmorsee, marble lake, in 2009.

In 2017 she encountered Oxford Stanza 2 poets in Bonn on the occasion of Diana Bell’s art project as part of the Bonn-Oxford twinning. It encouraged her to write in English and woke her interest in English poetry and also in translations. As the result of an ongoing collaboration she was able to publish the pamphlet Poems In The Hourglass, Gedichte im Stundenglas, with German-English poems in 2022 through the Bonn-Oxford link.

Eva runs creative writing workshops for adults at the Arp Museum near Bonn as well as workshops for children and youth. She loves interdisciplinary collaborations with artists around the world and is up to all kind of adventures in art and poetry.


www.evawal.blogspot.com


www.evawal-kunstprojekte.blogspot.com



The poem “winter enchantment” is written in English. A German version might follow.


Inge Milfull


Winter Light


It’s late,

the low-lit day transforms

to less-lit night,

the invisible sun,

gone—

what’s left

is the lamp above my head,

as I sit drawing lines to form letters,

one by one,

linking them into words.

And I like doing that,

unsure

whether it means a lot,

tonight—

it still lightens the load

at the back of my mind,

breaks up long-looping thoughts,

as the land goes on sliding

little by little

further into the dark.



Crossing the Park


The dog lopes across pale flat space,

delight on long legs,

a dark furry cloud

on a winter’s day dimmed with hoar frost,

iced over dull white,

except for this visible pleasure

of running.


A news article reports

on the severe impact of pet mourning.

Not news to me.

But here, this cold morning, a fresh legacy—

a smile gifted by an unfamiliar dog.


The dog turns its head.

Only now do I see

its eyes loving everything it sees.




Inge Milfull is half German, half Australian. She grew up in Germany and has lived and worked in Oxford for most of the last two decades. She now writes mostly in English. She has been involved with the long-running local group Back Room Poets almost as long as she has lived in Oxford and runs one of their poetry workshops.

Stephen Paul Wren


Meshes

For Yeats


Digital pictures of my daughter

raise an Andes of feelings


and the sky is silent and below

this her adventurous soul


makes me smile then I cry for hours

which drains batteries in my head.


Looking through our genetic meshes,

I see my mother in her


and try not to think of the dead as

blocks, machines with failing parts


or corpses underneath lightbulbs, for

it is more palatable


to view the departed as engines

taken apart and rebuilt.


The new tongues, hearts, wise purposes, and

the vibrancy of birdsong


are gratitudes that save lives, and

so, I send a positive text


to my other daughter. She passes

another obstacle now.


She wins and eats the copper apples

of autumn, protected from


the nickel apples of winter and

the ice that attempts to steal.




Stephen Paul Wren studied at Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) and worked in industry for many years. He transitioned back into academia at Oxford (St Hilda’s College) before joining Kingston University in 2018 where he works as a Senior lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry. Stephen's poetry can be read at www.stephenpaulwren.wixsite.com/luke12poetry and you can find him on Twitter @Stephen34343631. His book ‘Formulations’ (co-written with Dr Miranda Lynn Barnes) was published by Small Press in 2022. His book 'A Celestial Crown of Sonnets' (co-written with Dr Sam Illingworth) was published by Penteract Press in 2021. Also, Stephen's poetry has appeared in places such as 14 magazine, Marble Broadsheet, Consilience, Tears in the Fence, Green Ink Poetry, Fragmented Voices, and Dreich magazine. Stephen's Facebook group Molecules Unlimited is growing quickly and its third online poetry event is due to take place in April 2023.



Helen Overell


Winter beginnings This is where we start from —

mud at our feet, frost in our hair,

feathers of ice, long low light,

fallen leaves that glimmer gold.

Mud at our feet, frost in our hair,

we follow the path to the woods —

fallen leaves that glimmer gold,

tall trees stood hushed and still.

We follow the path to the woods,

breath in clouds keeps us apart,

tall trees stood hushed and still,

branches etched on a pewter sky.

Breath in clouds keeps us apart,

feathers of ice, long low light,

branches etched on a pewter sky —

this is where we start from.




Helen Overell has work in several magazines and some of her poems were highly commended or placed in competitions including the Poetry Society Stanza Competition 2018 and the Poetry News Members' poems Summer 2020. Her first collection Inscapes & Horizons was published by St Albert's Press in 2008 and her second collection Thumbprints was published by Oversteps in 2015. A booklet of her poems Measures for lute was published by The Lute Society in 2020.


Dorothy Yamamoto


New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, by Hiroshige


The foxes are gathering

at the changing tree—


a group of them, about twenty

many with raised paws

and slightly simpering postures

caught in a few lines, beak-nosed, sharp-eared.


Their bodies are small pale flames

and streaming from the forest

that blots the sky behind the village

come thousands more,

grey, losing shape the farther off—

like cones dropped from the pines.


The village hunkers down.

Rice is cooked, mixed with pickles,

straw mattresses unrolled.

No one attends to the foxes . . .


who keep their own circle

at the year’s silent edge

ears pricked for the perfect breath

of what is still to come.



Mount Haruna in snow, by Hiroshige


Why do we keep drawing houses?

So easy, of course, the way children


plant the eyes, with curtains,

and the door with its shiny navel.


From trains, rattling past

long-grassed gardens, a swing


looped over itself, the blur

of someone behind steamed-up glass


we think Yes, there’s someone there

but who they are always


escapes us. Perhaps we can complete

no more houses than our own.


Inside this print

in front of the ice peaks


there’s a small house, triangled roof,

thin poles tinted with brown


and a bridge leading to it—

a bridge scarier than you can imagine


loaded so full it might be made of snow

above a deep crevasse.


And, as always, there are travellers

just beginning to cross.


It is the slightest of lines

that is drawing them—


the promised edge

of another life, worth braving


the whirling weather, the blue slipstream

of the faraway water.


As they step up to the verandah I watch them

carefully knock the snow from their boots


and remove their gloves, ready for greeting.



Dorothy Yamamoto grew up in Barnet, north London, where her Japanese father and English mother settled after the war. That divided background is the source of many of her poems. She now lives in Oxford, where she helps to run two local poetry groups and organizes readings and poetry workshops. She works as a freelance editor and writes non-fiction books about animals as well as poetry (for example, Guinea Pig and Wild Boar, both published by Reaktion Books).

Dorothy’s first collection, Landscape with a Hundred Bridges (Blinking Eye Publishing), was published in 2007. Since then she has edited Hands & Wings, an anthology in aid of the charity Freedom from Torture, and her pamphlet Honshū Bees (Templar Poetry) came out in spring 2018.

Elizabeth Barton


Dog Rose


edge rose, hedgerow

I entice you with my scent

only to rip your skin

my roots are a cure for a mad dog’s bite


I sink my claws

into the scrawny stems of brambles

scramble towards the light


come frost-grip, stripped of leaves

my straggling limbs ghosted with lichen


I am all fruit, garlands of scarlet hips

flaming the wasteland

beckoning bright-winged flocks

from the north


each blood-bead

pulsing with the mystery

of flower and thorn



Dartford Warbler


like a secret

I spirit from bush to bush

skulk amongst thorns


though I have wings

I cling to my heath-kingdom


on mornings mist-spun

each golden flower

gloved in a web of silk

I’m dry in my fastness of spikes

cracked seed pods


rich-pickings here—

come spring these shroud-makers

will larder my chicks

their threads bind my nest


I’ll perch on the highest stem

startle this land awake

with my cockerel eye


rattle your ancestors’ bones

with my prickling song



Elizabeth Barton’s debut pamphlet, If Grief were a Bird, was published in 2022 by Agenda Editions. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Mslexia, The High Window, Time Haiku and the podcast, Poetry Worth Hearing. She is Stanza Rep for Mole Valley Poets and leads Ecopoetry workshops.

Carl Tomlinson


Solstice

Before a single plough is hitched,

while wheat is still its private green;

before the cricket season’s done,

while festival fields still wear their tents;

weeks before the schools break up,

while hens still lay an egg a day

my old man is bound to say,

‘The nights’ll soon be drawing in’

as if our careless summer days,

and wanton hours of heat,

require some expiation

that only winter’s withering can bring.



Carl Tomlinson lives on a smallholding in the North Oxfordshire countryside. His poems have been published in South, Orbis, and in competition anthologies. Known to many for his hosting of reading in the Abingdon Arms and Live in the Time of Coronavirus. He has just published his first book, Changing Places, with Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on poems about industrial painting and also on Oxford.



Fiona Perry


A Street Cat Foresees Her Death


How did it come to this?


One moment lapping up warm water

from a saucer in the protectress’s garden


the next leaping out of herself

to look down upon the bombed out

cathedral of her little rib cage


crushed rose-petal-red

seeping

into tyre patterned snow


it’s then she remembers bounding towards the harbour

consumed with a desire for fish scraps.


She looks away from her roadkill self to watch a pearly veil of frost

settle on the pier on the silvery shingle

on the living cats

and on the dead cats.


Even as dawn is breaking, winter is closing in


and she recalls summertime as a kitten, specifically the soft

unparalleled delight of catching a fat moth in her mouth.



Fiona Perry currently lives with her family near Oxford but she was born and brought up in Northern Ireland. Her poetry and short fiction have been widely published in journals such as Ink, Sweat, & Tears, Lighthouse, Utopia, and the Ekphrastic Review. Her short story, Sea Change, won first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award (2020). A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and Lancaster University, she worked previously as an environmentalist in a unitary authority and more recently works as an editor and educator. Her first collection of poetry Alchemy (Turas Press) won the Poetry Book Awards (2021) Silver Medal and was shortlisted for the Rubery Prize. https://turaspress.ie/shop/contemporary-poetry-alchemy-by-fiona-perry-debut-collection-from-turas-press/



Kate Noakes




Website archived by the National Library of Wales


Non-Fiction -

Real Hay-on-Wye, Seren 2022


Current Poetry Collection -

Goldhawk Road, Two Rivers Press, 2023


Previous Publications -

Ocean to Interior, Mighty Erudite, 2007

The Wall Menders, Two Rivers Press, 2009

Cape Town, Eyewear Publishing, 2012

I-spy and shanty, corrupt press, 2014

Tattoo on Crow Street, Parthian, 2015 Paris Stage Left, Eyewear 2017

The Filthy Quiet, Parthian, 2019



Kate Noakes was born in England, six weeks after her Welsh parents left Cardiff. She spent much of her childhood in Australia, and, as an adult, has travelled extensively. Until recently, she was shuttling between Paris and London. She is well-placed to play the flâneuse, or to interrogate ideas about identity, or again, to bear witness to the calamity humans have inflicted on climate and planet.


The next episode of Poetry Worth Hearing will appear sometime in January. If you would like to submit your work, please send a recording of up to 4 minutes of unpublished poems with their texts and a short author bio to poetryworthhearing@gmail.com. There is no specific theme for the next episode but submissions should rea



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